Cork GAA have a €500,000 shortfall to tackle while CEO suggests changes to arrest divisional dominance of club game

Cork GAA have a €500,000 shortfall to tackle while CEO suggests changes to arrest divisional dominance of club game
Bill Cooper of Imokilly is tackled by Robert Downey of Glen Rovers. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

CORK GAA have a shortfall of €500,000 after a difficult year for the Association on Leeside.

As well as the issues relating to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, whose completely upgraded pitch will be ready for the next campaign in January, attendances at club matches have dropped while revenue from the Cork Clubs Draw is also down.

“The decline in attendances, the drop in performance-related sponsorship, the increasing running costs for the board in the areas of administration, county teams, legal fees and subscriptions/functions, and the decline in revenues from the Clubs draw meant that a loss of over half a million was incurred over the past financial year,” explains CEO Kevin O'Donovan in Cork County Board report released ahead of this year's convention.

Tracey Kennedy, chairperson Cork County board and Kevin O'Donovan, CEO. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Tracey Kennedy, chairperson Cork County board and Kevin O'Donovan, CEO. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The board is hopeful that getting the Páirc up and running fully will ensure Cork are more successful in 2020, while naming rights for the stadium are up for grabs and the venue will host an International Rules test with Australia next November. There's also the likelihood of a Munster rugby clash taking place in the GAA venue, as a test-run for a potential Champions Cup semi-final.

Previously the board was also to tap into reserves from the stadium, which are understandably no longer a revenue stream. 

“The investment of the board’s longstanding reserves in the stadium has meant that the interest previously generated by same is no longer available, while the grounds account now accumulates costs rather than revenue. In short, roughly half of the losses came from declining revenue, half from increasing costs.” 

The 'legal fees' referred to involve the controversial High Court case involving the Cork County Board and former administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan, which was resolved with a confidential settlement earlier this year.

In a comprehensive report, Kevin O'Donovan details all the games that took place at various levels in hurling and football, while also acknowledging that Imokilly's dominance in the senior grade and the general strength of the colleges and divisions, including UCC hurlers and Duhallow footballers, have had a negative impact.

A proposal from Glen Rovers, who lost this season's decider to Imokilly as they completed three in a row, to remove divisions and colleges was shot down by club delegates at convention previously.

O'Donovan explains that "three options could be considered to redress the balance for senior club teams."

The first would prevent county-winning players lining out the follow season, the second would make premier intermediate, along with premier senior and senior A players, unavailable, and the third would stop inter-county hurlers and footballers wearing the divisional colours.

"That players who lined out in a final for a County winning division or college would be ineligible for the following year’s championship with that team; or that eligibility for divisional/college teams would be restricted to Intermediate A and Junior players, or that players that represent Cork senior teams in a given year would be ineligible for such representative teams thus allowing these rounds to progress during the summer months. 

"If the true goal of such teams is opportunity and providing exposure for players who would not otherwise gain recognition, perhaps one of the above might be an option."

The CEO still made room to praise Imokilly for their excellence. 

"A highlight of the continued success of this side is certainly the consistent commitment of the county players to the unit and such character has served the County jersey well too, from figures such as Harnedy, Cooper and Dalton. A word also for outgoing manager Fergal Condon whose contribution across several levels was recognised by his appointment with the Cork U20 hurlers for 2020." 

"A middle ground must be found," argues O'Donovan."

He has already driven huge change to the club championship, with extra tiers added from 2020 and a round robin series guaranteeing more games for all.

"Within our own structures, the practice of essentially shutting down in terms of club county championship action for the summer months over the past two years has had some benefits in terms of certainty and allowing league programmes to be completed. 

"However, it is not sustainable for a county with such a number of dual clubs to delay the resumption of all championships until after or close to the exit of our county teams. The continued removal of club championships from the summer months will mean the end of the GAA as we know it in Cork and in my own opinion will do irreparable damage to the fabric of the club game which is the primary participation outlet for 99% of our players. 

"Therefore, for now, we must find ways within the existing structures.

"In 2020, the provision of extra games via the new group format will increase participation levels, but such benefits would be negated by an overly condensed schedule next August, particularly for dual clubs. And yet, the group format and the provision of a minimum of three championship games to all teams now allows games between teams with no county players to be played mid-summer."

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